Monday, May 10, 2021

Why the sailing yacht movement is greener than ever

From Boat International by Marilyn Mower
There are few more eco-friendly ways to travel than by sailing yacht, but, thanks to fresh innovations, the future is ever greener.
If you want to go around the world, the only way to do it with any conscience is on a sailing boat,” asserts Wally Yachts CEO Luca Bassani.
Indeed, environmental sensitivity and mounting scientific and social pressure for reducing fossil-fuel consumption seemed to be making progress until Covid-19 took over the news cycle.
Interestingly, naval architects, designers yacht builders and suppliers have continued nose to the grindstone in anticipation of a future that is not a bounce back but a bounce forward toward a day when far more yachts are powered by sail, and those yachts make an ever smaller environmental impact.

Rather than a green revolution, the actual picture is incremental, “a steady drip, drip, drip,” as naval architect Bill Tripp puts it. 
“Progress is an S-shaped curve slowly moving up but then something comes along and the axis shifts and it steepens quickly. That’s what happened with electric cars. It was a very long, low curve, but now you can argue that one of the best cars in the world is electric.”

The Wally 145 has a hybrid propulsion system
Credit: Wally

Is the totally electric boat a possibility?
Definitely for a small boat or yachts that primarily day sail, says Tripp, but a superyacht with its high hotel load is a different matter with a lot of variables.
Let’s take a look at the puzzle pieces emerging for the development of low-to-no impact superyachts.

A good sailing boat is an efficient boat, but “efficient” can mean either faster or less costly to operate, both attractive outcomes but for different reasons and perhaps to different customers.

At yacht builder Southern Wind, the mantra is “Improving sustainability through efficiency.” 
Taking weight out is an everyday battle but the yard attracts customers who like the large but pared-down ethos of its boats and their modest crew requirements.

Credit: Southern Wind Yachts

“One of the complaints about sailing boats during Med cruising season is that the wind is too light and the boat won’t go anywhere in less than six to eight knots of breeze unless it’s motoring. We put our effort into resolving that issue,” says Southern Wind commercial director Andrea Micheli. 
“If a boat has a bigger sailplan, it can sail faster and at a lower wind speed. Our new 105 will carry 15 per cent more sail area than our 102-footer [31-metre]. It will sail in four knots true wind! We will go upwind at 4.5 knots and downwind at 4.9 knots. At seven to eight knots of wind, we sail beautifully at eight to nine knots while most of our competitors will be motoring.”

Of course, sail area is not the only string to the yard’s bow.
Boats consume remarkably little energy when sailing; it is the time at anchor with owners and guests aboard when the hotel loads explode.
Even a blue-water cruiser sits for about eight months of the year. Southern Wind has invested in the development of awnings that can generate seven to 20kW of electricity using solar cloth panels that stow in a dedicated deck locker.

Credit: Bill Dixon Yacht Design

“When the owner and guests are gone, we think the boat can be nearly energy self-sufficient when on a mooring or at a dock,” says Micheli. 
“It also keeps the boats cooler during the day. You won’t need to supplement as much with a generator or shore power.”

“This summer we delivered Kauris IV, which has huge battery banks,” says Bassani. 
“You can motor at 10 knots for eight hours if you don’t have wind. Unfortunately, available solar cells for recharging a yacht of this size are not enough. You can keep a stationary 40-footer [12-metre] charged on solar, but not a superyacht.”

Efficiency also means power management systems and using battery power for peak shaving (upsizing battery banks to draw power off them for silent running or short-term loads) instead of upsizing gensets. 
“Based on our real data, the 105 will have two 19kW gensets,” says Micheli. One can power the boat and charge the batteries while the other manages short-term demands or hydraulics for sail hoists. Small gensets will run at 70 to 80 per cent load, which is much better for them. Proprietary software lets crew manage energy generation and use.”

The heights of hybrid

Royal Huisman, which pioneered hybrid power with Ethereal in 2009, has an ongoing complete hybrid re-power of its 43.5-metre Juliet to give it the ability to cruise zero-emissions zones.
The centrepiece is a new gearbox aligned with a sophisticated electric motor/generator for indirect electric propulsion from the battery bank for silent operation, or a generator via the power management system.
The main engine can still turn the prop shaft if necessary or provide electric power to meet the hotel load.

Naval architect Merfyn Owen says that on 25- to 35-metre yachts the main power consumers are air conditioning and refrigeration. 
“Adding insulation and scaling back expectations need to be part of the package, but the right combination would be peak shaving. Entering and exiting a harbour at low speed is not good for an engine; it’s better to use electric motors when you only need six knots.”
He has a 25-metre high-latitudes yacht in construction that will enjoy hybrid propulsion.

Credit: Royal Huisman

“We find peak shaving very effective in that crew don’t need to start up another generator for a short period of extra load that can be handled by the batteries,” says Royal Huisman project manager Henriko Kalter.
“Project 404, a 59.7-metre sloop, will be fully diesel-electric, meaning [there will be] no main engines but a system that pulls power for all uses off a grid fed by several smaller generators.
These are just for recharging and can be smaller than mains.

“Let’s say your peak load when everything is on is 100kW, but the rest of the day it drops to around 25kW. It’s not good for a 100kW generator to be running at 25 per cent load – the maintenance is awful. So if we put in a 50kW generator, we charge the batteries when power consumption drops below 50 kW and draw from the batteries when it goes above. It also allows us to use a more basic DC system for everything, which gives us more options, such as two retractable electric drive legs.

“Our ‘smart energy’ approach has two pillars – one to reduce power consumption and one to generate electrical power,” continues Kalter. 
“We studied where power is consumed on the boats and it’s primarily the galley and air conditioning, which take 50 per cent of the power. Beyond waste heat recovery, we are also recovering cool air. Ventilation systems just dump cooled air over the side but we are using the previously cooled air to pre-cool the fresh air coming in so the ambient temperature is being reduced in two steps.

“We are also looking at hydrogen and we have been talking to Lloyd’s about storage safety,” says Kalter.
 “The problem is availability. Can you go from Antigua to the Med on hydrogen? Probably not. We look to solar and hydro-generators when the boat is under way, [so] it’s not one solution but many contributors to becoming autonomous. We think a totally fossil-free boat is possible.”

Sunreef Yachts’ Eco 80 is covered in solar cells powering enough battery capacity to allow silent mode all night long
Credit: Sunreef

Catamaran builder Sunreef Yachts introduced its Eco line with an 18-metre at Cannes 2019.
Now it has scaled up to a 24-metre that will be available in both power and sailing versions. 
“Electric power is the basis but we take it further,” says Sunreef Yachts’ Artur Poloczanski. 
“The boats are designed with enough battery capacity to allow silent mode at night, and we use a non-toxic silicon bottom paint that is slicker than most paint, so there is less resistance. We have also used reclaimed teak for the soles inside the boats, and having water makers with purification means you don’t need to lug around plastic bottles.”

A recent source of pride is the yard’s design of integrated carbon-fibre bimini tops that take advantage of new high-output solar cells that can be curved – both saving weight and improving aesthetics. 
The E series boats use these same solar cells in curved sections of hulls and decks. 
“We believe that 32kW peak generation from solar is achievable. Wind and hydrogeneration add more self-sufficiency,” says Poloczanski.
“Eco design and construction is a main focus for Sunreef now.” Sunreef’s own R&D has led to counter surfaces being made of compressed paper and resin, and components made of flax and basalt fibre, rather than fibreglass.

Tripp has several parallel hybrid projects under construction of sizes varying from 13 to 27 metres. 
“It’s the Prius model of batteries and an engine. 
Even if you had the 80kW of a Tesla battery pack you could only power your boat for about two and a half hours at full power – there’s not much excitement to that. 
You need a source to power the batteries.

Credit: Tom van Oossanen

“Hybrid systems are trickling up from simple systems on small boats and trickling down from huge ships,” says Tripp. 
“We found a flywheel alternator that looks like a six-inch pancake that fits between the gearbox and the engine. Under sail [with the propeller set in reverse] you lose maybe half a knot. When more systems are available, there will be more acceptance.

“Hydrogenerators with even a small propeller on a standard shaft can generate about 10kW, which makes them quite practical for small boats,” continues Tripp. 
“But superyachts have a different problem because of their greater loads and the number of people aboard. I’m always running into captains who says they have to keep the boat closed down to preserve the fabrics and woods inside. That’s a choice. I think we need to be less precious and design boats to be able to open hatches.”

“You absolutely can regenerate enough energy to cover the hotel loads on a sailing superyacht,” says naval architect Bill Dixon. 
“Black Pearl has proven that it’s possible under way with hydrogeneration and solar cells charging battery banks.”

Dixon, a proponent of the Dynarig, is developing concepts that marry the spaces associated with a motor-yacht lifestyle with the green credentials of a sailing yacht. We have enquiries from people now, mostly younger owners, who are putting their companies through sustainability analysis and realise their yacht should meet the same standards.”
Reduce, reuse, recycle

Naval architect Rob Doyle says he’s been “stripping away stuff” from his designs. 
“I’m always asking, ‘Do you really need that?’
It turns out owners like natural ventilation and a boat that can be silent for 15 hours.

“Boats got heavier because yards got worried about warranty issues and redundancy [so they] upsized and duplicated gear, adding cost. The lighter we make them, the cheaper it gets. Carbon fibre costs nearly twice the price of aluminium, which is totally recyclable and the hull will be close on weight. It’s often the stuff inside that’s heavy.”

Take the new ClubSwan 80 for example. Currently under construction at Persico Marine, Nautor's Swan's latest addition to its series of performance sailing yachts recycles carbon-fibre from previous moulds by separating the carbon from the resin to create new moulds.
Persico also collects prepreg scraps and ship to a company specialising in medical prostheses.

YYachts, a company based on the concept of light, efficient, uncomplicated boats, plans to show its new 21-metre Y7 Cin Cin at the Cannes show.
Its deck is laid with sustainable engineered wood from Lignia that looks like teak, weighs the same and mellows to the same silver grey.

YYachts also internalises environmental protection.
Founder Michael Schmidt insists that subcontractors come from within a 100-kilometre radius to lower transportation costs and reduce the carbon footprint. 
“We digitalised the shipyard as much as possible to reduce travelling and installed LED lighting everywhere. In addition, we use second-hand shipping containers as office space and let a couple of sheep take care of the grass in front of the yard,” he says. 
“We are also focusing on new materials we can use on our projects, such as green resin foam generated from recycled PET bottles.”

“If a customer’s company has to meet zero-carbon status by 2030, then their personal possessions probably also should,” says Kalter. 
“We are seeing more owners moving in this direction in tender packages we receive, some even coming from motor-yacht owners. It’s not that they want to do regattas, but they don’t want to give up the yachting lifestyle.”

Voicing cautious optimism, Tripp adds, “We’ll see all these things come to the fore, hopefully driven by clients demanding it rather than by naval architects saying you could have it.”

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The swim, official trailer

In 2018, Seeker chronicled Ben Lecomte’s historic swim across the Pacific to raise awareness for the state of our oceans.
Now, Lecomte’s incredible expedition has been turned into a full-length documentary, streaming now on Discovery+. Terms apply.
Watch here:​ »
Watch more Swim |
He swam from Japan to Hawaii and at times saw a piece of plastic in the ocean every three minutes​ 
"A French man’s attempt to swim across the Pacific Ocean may be over for now, but his campaign to warn the world about the dangers of plastic pollution in the ocean continues." 
Six months. 5,700 miles. 
One ocean. 
Ben Lecomte wants to be first to swim across Pacific.
"Ben Lecomte, a 50-year old Frenchman turned Texan, will slip into the water on Sunday off the coast of Choshi, Japan, and start swimming. 
If all goes as planned, he won’t set foot on land for six months. In that time, he plans to swim through the largest collection of trash on the planet, great white shark migration areas, through jellyfish and storms and isolation and monotony." 
Man begins to swim across Pacific Ocean, garbage patch and all​ 
"Lecomte said he is undertaking the expedition as a kind of existential challenge and to help publicize threats like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — the vast expanse of man-made pollution that fouls that ocean."
Ben Lecomte's historic swim across the Pacific Ocean is a feat that can’t be missed.
Join us as we dive into the most extensive data set of the Pacific Ocean ever collected.
Learn about the technology the Seeker crew is using to deter sharks away from Ben and measure the impact of the long-distance swim on his mind and body.
Ben's core mission is to raise awareness for ocean health issues, so we’ll investigate key topics such as pollution and plastics as he swims closer to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, discover potential consequences from climate change, and examine how factors like ocean currents can impact his progress along the way.
Seeker empowers the curious to understand the science shaping our world.
We tell award-winning stories about the natural forces and groundbreaking innovations that impact our lives, our planet, and our universe. 
Links : 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Reynisfjara black sand beach, the most famous beach on the South Coast of Iceland

Reynisfjara is the most famous beach on the South Coast of Iceland.
Localization with the GeoGarage platform (Icelandic nautical raster chart)
Its beautiful black sand, powerful waves, and the nearby Reynisdrangar sea stacks make Reynisfjara a truly unique place to visit and a popular filming location (Game of Thrones, Star Wars and more).
Reynisfjara Beach is one of the most well-known black sanded beach in the whole world.
This is a place of wild and dramatic beauty where the roaring waves of the Atlantic Ocean power ashore with tremendous force.
In 1991, Reynisfjara appeared on the top ten list of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world, and it is very easy to see why it was chosen!
It is said that to stand on Reynisfjara Beach is akin to being in a natural amphitheater where the white water of the Atlantic waves provides the drama.
At any time of year, and in any light, this is a place of great beauty which will remind people that they can never be far from the powerful forces of nature which shaped the island of Iceland.
Marvel at the power of the ocean but do not stand too close – those masterful waves deserve your respect and can be quite dangerous if you get too close! 

Friday, May 7, 2021

This map is alive with the beauty of lighthouse signals

At night, the rims of the North Sea flicker and flash with a multitude of light signals to guide ships to safety.
Credit: Geodienst – Lights at Sea

From BigThink by Frank Jacobs

The unique light signatures of nautical beacons translate into hypnotic cartography.
  • Many of the world's 23,000 lighthouses feature a distinct combination of color, frequency, and range.
  • These unique light signatures help ships verify their positions and safeguard maritime traffic.
  • But they also translate into this map, visualizing the ingenuity and courage of lighthouse builders and keepers.
Land and sea are both shaded dark, so it's a bit hard at first to make out that this collection of merrily blinking lights is actually a map.
Once the coastal contours pop, though, all becomes clear: these are lighthouses!

At night, the Eastern Mediterranean is awash with lighthouse signals.
Credit: Geodienst – Lights at Sea

The Age of Big Data

The map not only shows where they are, but how they are: static or blinking in various colors with the size of the circles corresponding to the range of their lights.

Up until the 20th century, a map of lighthouses would have been a subdued affair: just a string of dots strung along lines of coast. But this is the 21st century!
We're in the Age of Big Data, ruled by the clever boffins who know how to stitch one dataset to another. Zap it with electricity and presto: it's alive!

That's what the folks did over at Geodienst, the spatial expertise center of the University of Groningen (Netherlands). Back in 2018, student/assistant Jelmer van der Linde (currently with the University of Edinburgh) came across OpenSeaMap, an open-source resource for nautical information similar to its more famous landlubber cousin, OpenStreetMap.

OpenSeaMap contained a database with detailed information on nautical beacons and lighthouses, which included not just their location, but also the frequency, range, and even the color of their signals. Would it be possible to visualize all those data points on a map?
Yes, it would!

Norway's craggy coastline requires lots of light.
Not that much blinking going on, though.
Credit: Geodienst – Lights at Sea

The result is this riot of a map. It's important that ships don't mistake one lighthouse for another.
That's why they come in various colors and their lights flicker with a distinct frequency.
Norway in particular is lit up with beacons and lighthouses, as its fjord-indented coast warrants. And the rest of Europe is well provided with nautical warning lights.

However, while the map is reminiscent of other global traffic trackers for flights (like Flightradar24 or FlightAware) or shipping (such as VesselFinder or MarineTraffic), it is neither live nor global.
The flickering lights aren't a real-time report; they merely repeat the code in the original database. And that database is incomplete.

Zoom out, and the map gets a bit too dark.
According to the Lighthouse Directory, there are at least 23,000 lighthouses in the world.
And even though the United States has more lighthouses than any other nation700 by some counts – the map only shows a handful of lights in North America.

Like its parent, the lighthouse map is open source too, so if anyone out there is capable of filling in the gaps, they can.
Lighthouse enthusiasts, get to it!

Not one yet yourself?
Below are 10 lighthouse facts to help you come over to the light side.

Now you see them, now you don't.
Credit: Geodienst – Lights at Sea

Trapped in a giant phallus and other true facts about lighthouses

  1. The world's smallest lighthouse is the North Queensferry Light Tower, near the Forth Bridge in Scotland. A mere 16 feet (5 m) tall, it was built in 1817 by Robert Stevenson, famous builder of lighthouses, as was his son Thomas, who was the father of the famous novelist Robert Louis Stevenson.
  2. Reaching a height of 436 ft (133 m), Jeddah Light in Saudi Arabia is the world's tallest lighthouse.
  3. The 2019 movie The Lighthouse, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, was based on a true incident, known as the Smalls Lighthouse Tragedy. In 1801, a storm trapped two Welsh lighthouse keepers, both named Thomas, in their lighthouse. One died, the other went mad. Asked to summarize his film, writer/director Robert Eggers said, "Nothing good can happen when two men are trapped alone in a giant phallus."
  4. From its inauguration in 1886 until 1901, the Statue of Liberty also served as a lighthouse. Its nine electric arc lamps, located in the torch, could be seen 24 miles out to sea.
  5. All U.S. lighthouses are now automated – save for Boston Light, the oldest continually used lighthouse in the country. For historical reasons, Congress has decided it shall remain staffed year-round.
  6. Hook Lighthouse, on Hook Head in Ireland's County Wexford, claims to be the world's oldest lighthouse still in use. It was first built by a medieval lord in the early decades of the 13th century.
  7. The Tower of Hercules in La Coruña, Spain has a slightly better claim. It was built by the Romans in the 1st century AD and still functions as a lighthouse.
  8. Stannard Rock Lighthouse is also known as "the loneliest place in the world." It is located in Lake Superior, Michigan. At 24 miles (39 km) from shore, it is the most remote lighthouse in the U.S. and one of the most remote in the world. It opened in 1883 and was staffed for parts of the year until 1962.
  9. A lighthouse on Märket is the reason for the weird border on the island, divided between Sweden and Finland. In 1885, the Finns built a lighthouse on the highest part of the island – on the Swedish half. Thanks to a complicated land swap, the lighthouse is back on the Finnish side.
  10. In the United States, August 7 is National Lighthouse Day.
Robert Pattinson (left) and Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse.  
Credit: © 2019 A24 Films, via IMDB

Links :

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Revealed: 2,000 refugee deaths linked to illegal EU pushbacks

Migrant rescue patrol in the Aegean Sea by the Turkish coastguard.
A case has been filed against the Greek state that claims patrol boats towed migrants back to Turkish waters and abandoned them.
Photograph: Erdem Şahin/EPA

From The Guardian by Lorenzo Tondo

A Guardian analysis finds EU countries used brutal tactics to stop nearly 40,000 asylum seekers crossing borders

EU member states have used illegal operations to push back at least 40,000 asylum seekers from Europe’s borders during the pandemic, linked to the death of more than 2,000 people, the Guardian can reveal.

In one of the biggest mass expulsions in decades, European countries, supported by EU’s border agency Frontex, systematically pushed back refugees, including children fleeing from wars, in their thousands, using illegal tactics ranging from assault to brutality during detention or transportation.

The Guardian’s analysis is based on reports released by UN agencies, combined with a database of incidents collected by non-governmental organisations.
According to charities, with the onset of Covid-19, the regularity and brutality of pushback practices has grown.

The findings come as the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog, Olaf, has launched an investigation into Frontex over allegations of harassment, misconduct and unlawful operations aimed at stopping asylum seekers from reaching EU shores.

According to the International Organization for Migration, in 2020 almost 100,000 immigrants arrived in Europe by sea and by land compared with nearly 130,000 in 2019 and 190,000 in 2017.

Since January 2020, despite the drop in numbers, Italy, Malta, Greece, Croatia and Spain have accelerated their hardline migration agenda.
Since the introduction of partial or complete border closures to halt the outbreak of coronavirus, these countries have paid non-EU states and enlisted private vessels to intercept boats in distress at sea and push back passengers into detention centres.
There have been repeated reports of people being beaten, robbed, stripped naked at frontiers or left at sea.

In 2020 Croatia, whose police patrol the EU’s longest external border, have intensified systemic violence and pushbacks of migrants to Bosnia.
The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) recorded nearly 18,000 migrants pushed back by Croatia since the start of the pandemic.
Over the last year and a half, the Guardian has collected testimonies of migrants who have allegedly been whipped, robbed, sexually abused and stripped naked by members of the Croatian police.
Some migrants said they were spray-painted with red crosses on their heads by officers who said the treatment was the “cure against coronavirus”.

According to an annual report released on Tuesday, the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), a coalition of 13 NGOs documenting illegal pushbacks in the western Balkans, abuse and disproportionate force was present in nearly 90% of testimonies in 2020 collected from Croatia, a 10% increase on 2019.

In April, the Guardian revealed how a woman from Afghanistan was allegedly sexually abused and held at knifepoint by a Croatian border police officer during a search of migrants on the border with Bosnia.

“Despite the European Commission’s engagement with Croatian authorities in recent months, we have seen virtually no progress, neither on investigations of the actual reports, nor on the development of independent border monitoring mechanisms,” said Nicola Bay, DRC country director for Bosnia.
“Every single pushback represents a violation of international and EU law – whether it involves violence or not.”

Since January 2020, Greece has pushed back about 6,230 asylum seekers from its shores, according to data from BVMN. The report stated that in 89% of the pushbacks, “BVMN has observed the disproportionate and excessive use of force.
This alarming number shows that the use of force in an abusive, and therefore illicit, way has become a normality […]

“Extremely cruel examples of police violence documented in 2020 included prolonged excessive beatings (often on naked bodies), water immersion, the physical abuse of women and children, the use of metal rods to inflict injury.”

In testimonies, people described how their hands were tied to the bars of cells and helmets put on their heads before beatings to avoid visible bruising.

A lawsuit filed against the Greek state in April at the European court of human rights accused Athens of abandoning dozens of migrants in life rafts at sea, after some had been beaten.
The case claims that Greek patrol boats towed migrants back to Turkish waters and abandoned them at sea without food, water, lifejackets or any means to call for help.

BVMN said: “Whether it be using the Covid-19 pandemic and the national lockdown to serve as a cover for pushbacks, fashioning open-air prisons, or preventing boats from entering Greek waters by firing warning shots toward boats, the evidence indicates the persistent refusal to uphold democratic values, human rights and international and European law.”

According to UNHCR data, since the start of the pandemic, Libyan authorities – with Italian support since 2017, when Rome ceded responsibility for overseeing Mediterranean rescue operations to Libya – intercepted and pushed back to Tripoli about 15,500 asylum seekers.
The controversial strategy has caused the forced return of thousands to Libyan detention centres where, according to first hand reports, they face torture.
Hundreds have drowned when neither Libya nor Italy intervened.

SOS Méditerranée operates the Ocean Viking, one of the few remaining NGO rescue boats in the Mediterranean
Photograph: Flavio Gasperini/SOS Mediterranee

“In 2020 this practice continued, with an increasingly important role being played by Frontex planes, sighting boats at sea and communicating their position to the Libyan coastguard,” said Matteo de Bellis, migration researcher at Amnesty International. “
So, while Italy at some point even used the pandemic as an excuse to declare that its ports were not safe for the disembarkation of people rescued at sea, it had no problem with the Libyan coastguard returning people to Tripoli. Even when this was under shelling or when hundreds were forcibly disappeared immediately after disembarkation.”

In April, Italy and Libya were accused of deliberately ignoring a mayday call from a migrant boat in distress in Libyan waters, as waves reached six metres.
A few hours later, an NGO rescue boat discovered dozens of bodies floating in the waves.
That day 130 migrants were lost at sea.

In April, in a joint investigation with the Italian Rai News and the newspaper Domani, the Guardian saw documents from Italian prosecutors detailing conversations between two commanders of the Libyan coastguard and an Italian coastguard officer in Rome.
The transcripts appeared to expose the non-responsive behaviour of the Libyan officers and their struggling to answer the distress calls which resulted in hundreds of deaths.
At least five NGO boats remain blocked in Italian ports as authorities claim administrative reasons for holding them.

Malta, which declared its ports closed early last year, citing the pandemic, has continued to push back hundreds of migrants using two strategies: enlisting private vessels to intercept asylum seekers and force them back to Libya or turning them away with directions to Italy.

“Between 2014 and 2017, Malta was able to count on Italy to take responsibility for coordinating rescues and allowing disembarkations,” said De Bellis.
“But when Italy and the EU withdrew their ships from the central Mediterranean, to leave it in Libya’s hands, they left Malta more exposed. In response, from early 2020 the Maltese government used tactics to avoid assisting refugees and migrants in danger at sea, including arranging unlawful pushbacks to Libya by private fishing boats, diverting boats rather than rescuing them, illegally detaining hundreds of people on ill-equipped ferries off Malta’s waters, and signing a new agreement with Libya to prevent people from reaching Malta.”

Last May, a series of voice messages obtained by the Guardian confirmed the Maltese government’s strategy to use private vessels, acting at the behest of its armed forces, to intercept crossings and return refugees to Libyan detention centres.

In February 2020, the European court of human rights was accused of “completely ignoring the reality” after it ruled Spain did not violate the prohibition of collective expulsion, as asylum applications could be made at the official border crossing point.
Relying on this judgment, Spain’s constitutional court upheld “border rejections” provided certain safeguards apply.

Last week, the bodies of 24 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were found by Spain’s maritime rescue. They are believed to have died of thirst and hunger while attempting to reach the Canary Islands.
In 2020, according to the UNHCR, 788 migrants died trying to reach Spain.

The Guardian has approached Frontex for comment.
Previously the agency has said it will be “co-operating fully” with Olaf.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

What is an 'internal wave'? It might explain the loss of an Indonesian submarine

An image taken by NASA's Aqua satellite as it passes over Indonesia, captures evidence of an internal wave in the same general area where the KRI Nanggala submarine disappeared earlier this month.Jeff Schmaltz/, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC
From NPR by Scott Neuman 
No official cause has yet been established for the destruction of an Indonesian submarine with 53 people aboard earlier this month, but some speculation has zeroed in on an undersea phenomenon which has been noted by submariners since at least World War II, though it has become better understood only in recent decades.

A senior Indonesian navy official suggested earlier this week that an "internal wave" may have pushed the KRI Nanggala 402 below its crush depth, causing the loss of the vessel and all aboard.
He cited satellite images showing the presence of such a wave in the area at about the time the sub disappeared.
Such waves — while seldom noticed by observers on the surface — can reach dizzying undersea heights and therefore cause concern for submarines, scientists say.
They are generated by the interplay of strong tides, warmer and cooler ocean layers and the undersea geography.

Internal tides, or internal waves, can reach hundreds of feet underneath the ocean surface, but might only be a few inches high on the surface.
Even though they’re underwater, NASA can see these tides from satellites.
They provide oceanographers with a unique way to map and study the much larger internal water motion.
Internal waves occur in specific ocean regions around the world – places such as the Strait of Gibraltar that links the Mediterranean with the Atlantic Ocean, parts of the Western Pacific and the South China Sea.
They are also known to exist in the Lombok Strait area in Indonesia, where the Nanggala was lost.

Matthew Alford, the associate director of the Marine Physical Laboratory at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, says that the U.S., China and Russia "have spent a lot of money" studying internal waves in the South China Sea because of their potential impact on naval operations in the strategic waterway.

"[I]nternal waves are very strong and are a hazard because they sweep ocean layers (and potentially anything in them including divers or subs) downwards hundreds of meters in just a few minutes," Alford says in an email to NPR.
"Lombok Strait is also a known region of strong internal waves," Alford, who researches the phenomenon, says.
Though he has never before heard of an internal wave sinking a submarine, it is a "plausible" scenario, Alford says.
A photo released on Sunday by the Indonesian navy shows parts of submarine KRI Nanggala that sank in the Bali Sea. Officials now speculate that the loss of the sub could have been caused by an internal wave.
Indonesian Navy/AP

A 1966 study by the U.S. Navy noted that "The passage of large-amplitude internal waves could make submarine depth control difficult, particularly when the submarine is running quietly at low speed."
The report, titled Internal Waves: Their Influence Upon Naval Operations, added that such waves "could initiate uncontrollable sinking of a submarine."

In World War II, submariners avoided the Strait of Gibraltar partly because they were aware of its reputation for propagating unusual undersea waves that were considered hazardous, David Farmer, a physical oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island, told USA Today in 2014.

Internal waves in the Strait of Gibraltar. Computer Graphics Animation of the outputs of a numerical model run in the Strait of Gibraltar showing the phenomenon of the internal waves produced by tides. Physical Oceanography Group University of Málaga (Spain)
At the height of the Cold War in 1984, a Soviet submarine that was apparently running beneath a tanker to mask its exit from the Strait suddenly smashed into the tanker's hull, causing damage to both vessels and forcing the submarine to surface.
The collision is thought to have been caused by an internal wave that unexpectedly thrust the submarine toward the surface.

Maarten Buijsman, a marine scientist at the University of Southern Mississippi, agrees that it's possible that an internal wave could have caused the sinking of the Nanggala.
"Some internal waves can have large amplitudes and they can displace submarines," he says.

The waves "are generated over steep topography due to the surface tides," he tells NPR. "In the South China Sea, internal wave amplitudes can be about 100 meters (330 feet)."

In the case of the Nanggala, what happened may have been the exact opposite of what occurred with the Soviet submarine in the Strait of Gibraltar in the 1980s – instead of an internal wave causing the submarine to hurtle toward the surface, the Indonesian vessel may have been pushed much deeper than it was designed to safely operate.

The Nanggala's demise is still under investigation. According to Indonesian Adm. Yudo Margono, the vessel was located in at least three pieces on the ocean floor at a depth of nearly 840 meters (2,750 feet) — far deeper than the submersible's "collapse depth" of 200 meters (655 feet).
An internal wave is just one possible explanation for the destruction of the German-built diesel-powered submarine.
Although it underwent a refit in South Korea that was completed in 2012, it was an old boat — having gone into service with the Indonesian navy in the early 1980s.

Nanggala was also reportedly preparing for a torpedo exercise at the time radio contact was lost — and torpedo accidents have been the cause of some high-profile submarine losses in the past.
In August 2000, an explosion of a torpedo in a tube aboard the Russian submarine Kursk set off the other torpedoes, causing the sub to go down in the Barents Sea, with all 118 of its crew, according to an official investigation.

Decades earlier, in 1968, the nuclear-powered USS Scorpion was lost with its 99 crew.
The cause of the Scorpion's sinking has never been conclusively proved, but one theory suggests that the submarine succumbed to a "hot-run" torpedo that unexpectedly became active while still in its tube.

During a media briefing in Jakarta earlier this week, Rear Adm. Iwan Isnurwanto, himself a former submariner, painted a grim picture of KRI Nanggala's final moments.
If it was an internal wave, he said, "that would be nature we are up against."
"We would be dragged by the waves, sending us to a quick descent," he said, adding, "No one can fight nature."
Links :

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

'The heat bombs' destroying Arctic Sea Ice

Pockets of warm water from the Pacific Ocean are entering the Arctic Ocean, accelerating the melt of sea ice. An international team of researchers led by Scripps Oceanography made unprecedented measurements of the physical and biological changes this incursion has brought about.

From Scripps by Robert Monroe

Unprecedented observations could revise forecasts of melt in polar ocean

A team led by physical oceanographers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego shows in a new study how plumes of warm water are flowing into the Arctic Ocean from the Pacific Ocean and accelerating sea ice melt from below.

The research primarily funded by the Office of Naval Research describes so-called underwater “heat bombs” as one of many mechanisms by which global warming-driven encroachment is changing the nature of the Arctic Ocean faster than nearly any other place on Earth.
It adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests that Arctic sea ice, a source of global climate stability, could disappear for larger portions of the year.

“The rate of accelerating sea ice melt in the Arctic has been hard to predict accurately, in part because of all of the complex local feedbacks between ice, ocean and atmosphere; this work showcases the large role in warming that ocean water plays as part of those feedbacks,” said Jennifer MacKinnon, a physical oceanographer at Scripps, chief scientist of the expedition, and lead author of the paper.
The study appears today in the journal Nature Communications.

The Arctic is an unusual ocean in that it is stratified – or layered – by salinity instead of temperature.
Most oceans of the world have warmer, lighter water near the surface and colder, denser water below.
In the Arctic, however, there is a surface layer that is cold but very fresh, influenced by river outflow and accelerating ice melt.
Warm, relatively salty water enters from the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait and then the Barrow Canyon off Alaska’s northern coast, which acts as a nozzle as the water flows through the narrow passage.

Because this water is saltier than the Arctic surface water, it is dense enough to “subduct,” or dive beneath, the fresh Arctic surface layer.
Its movement creates pockets of very warm water that lurk below surface waters.
Scientists have been seeing these pockets of warm sub-surface water strengthen over the last decade.

SODA researchers gather on deck of R/V Sikuliaq.
Photo: Jim Thomson

These pockets known as “heat bombs'' are just stable enough to be able to last for months or years, swirling far north beneath the main ice pack near the north pole, and destabilizing that ice as the heat in them gradually but steadily diffuses upwards to melt the ice.
Until now, though, the process by which the warm water subducts has neither been observed nor understood.
Without that understanding, climate scientists have been unable to include this important effect in forecast models, some of which under-predict accelerating sea ice melt rates.
Given that the influx of warm Pacific origin water has been growing over the past decade or so, this work adds to a growing body of evidence that Arctic sea ice, a source of global climate stability, could disappear for large portions of the year.

Researchers deploy a Fast CTD developed at Scripps Oceanography during the 2018 SODA cruise in the Arctic Ocean.
Photo: San Nguyen

In a 2018 expedition funded by the US Office of Naval Research, scientists for the first time caught one of these dramatic subduction events in the act.
The group used a combination of novel oceanographic instruments developed by the Multiscale Ocean Dynamics group at Scripps, satellite observations analyzed by colleagues at the University of Miami, profiling float data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, biological samples collected by British and German colleagues working in a project known as Changing Arctic Ocean, and detailed data analysis by colleagues at several other institutions.

“The group’s success highlights the new perspectives we can see on the natural world when we look at it in new ways,” said Scripps oceanographer Matthew Alford.
“This detailed view of the complicated processes governing Arctic heat transport would not have been possible without multiple simultaneous instrument suites, including remote sensing and custom shipboard and autonomous profilers developed at Scripps,” he said.

A SWIFT drifter developed by University of Washington researcher Jim Thomson is deployed during the 2018 SODA cruise to the Arctic Ocean.
Photo: San Nguyen

Instruments from the Scripps Multiscale Ocean Dynamics group include a custom-built “Fast CTD” sensor that makes very rapid profiles from the ship, and an autonomous “Wirewalker” that uses power from ocean waves to drive profiling measurements.
These instruments allow scientists to obtain high-resolution images of complex ocean processes, and to thus better understand how they work in detail.

This work also highlights the importance of collaboration across multiple institutions, between several US funding agencies, and with international partners; the depth of insight achieved here arises from the diversity of tools and perspectives that those collaborations bring.

Collaborative work with scientists in the United Kingdom and Germany shows that this warm sub-surface water also carries unique biogeochemical properties into the Arctic.
This mix of organisms and chemicals is expected to have important implications for the changing Arctic ecosystem.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Apple sued over iPhone warranty issues and water resistance claims

From AppleInsider by Malcom Owen

Apple is being sued in New York in an attempted class-action complaint over water resistance, with the claim it misrepresented how resistant to liquid the iPhone is in its marketing.

Like many smartphone manufacturers, Apple includes a level of water resistance in its iPhone lineup, with the claimed level of resistance increasing in recent years.
There have also been stories where iPhones dropped in lakes are retrieved months later in working order, even without any extra water protection.

However, a lawsuit filed on Saturday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York claims Apple is overstating the water-resistive capabilities of its hardware.

Listed as a "class action complaint" and with Antoinette Smith listed as the plaintiff "on behalf of all others similarly situated," the 13-page filing takes aim at Apple's references to water resistance.
For example, the iPhone 7 was marketed as having "IP67" protection, offering maximum water resistance to a depth of 1 meter (3.3 feet) for up to 30 minutes.

For the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, Apple labels them as rated to IP68, but with an enhanced claim of surviving depths of up to 4 meters (13.1 feet) for up to 30 minutes.
The iPhone 12 pushes the claim even further, at 6 meters (19.7 feet) for half an hour.

However, the lawsuit points out these are "insufficiently qualified by fine print disclaimers," with certification levels based on lab tests with static and pure water, unlike pool or sea water.
"This means that consumers who stand at the edge of a pool or ocean and whose devices are splashed or temporarily immersed, will be denied coverage, because the water contained chlorine or salt," the suit reads.

Furthermore, the warranty is said not to cover damage caused by liquids, usually signified by a liquid contact indicator turning red.

The suit says Apple's suggestion to rinse areas of an iPhone that have been in contact with common liquids, like juices or coffee, could introduce liquid in ways that could turn the indicator red.
It is alleged that this activity can be used to deny warranty coverage.

In the case of plaintiff Smith, who is described as a citizen of Bronx County, she is said to have bought the iPhone 8, which experienced contact with water "consistent with the IP rating of her device and consistent with how the water-resistant attributes were presented in the marketing and advertising of the device."

On trying to get the iPhone fixed by Apple, the company denied warranty coverage for the liquid damage.
This forced Smith to "incur financial loss through repair costs, decreased functionality, a lower re-sale value, and/or purchase of a new device."

It is claimed that the plaintiff wouldn't have bought the iPhone "in the absence of Defendant's misrepresentations and omissions," and also wouldn't have paid as much under the same situation. However, Smith still plans to purchase another iPhone, if she is assured that the water-resistance claims are consistent with "typical everyday usage of smartphone users, instead of based on controlled laboratory conditions." 

 In this ad, Apple claims that the iPhone 12 resists splashes of coffee, orange juice...
The suit claims its class consists of all iPhone buyers who live in the state of New York, with Apple allegedly breaching New York General Business Law's Consumer Protection Statute.

In demanding a jury trial, the suit's prayer for relief demands preliminary and injunctive relief by forcing Apple to correct its marketing, injunctive relief for restitution of class embers, monetary damages, costs and expenses to attorneys and experts, and any other relief granted by the court. 
This is not the first time Apple's water-resistance claims have come under fire.

In November 2020, the Italian Antitrust Authority fined Apple 10 million euro ($12 million) over claims it misled consumers by boasting of water resistance, yet refusing warranty coverage for liquid damage.

The fine is referenced in the lawsuit as evidence that Apple received complaints "by regulators, competitors, and consumers, to its main offices over the past several years" of the issue, making Apple aware that there's a problem to fix. 
Links :

Thousands of barrels of suspected toxic DDT found dumped in California ocean

Barrels and targets of interest were found in nearly all areas of the 36,000 acres surveyed and extended beyond dumpsite limits, which is roughly 12 miles offshore Los Angeles, and eight miles from Catalina Island. Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
A heat map showing concentrations of targets detected in the San Pedro Basin.
There are several distinct track-line patterns in the surveyed area, suggesting that the dumping was repeatedly done from an underway platform such as a moving ship or barge.
Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. 
From The Guardian by AP
Extent of possible toxic waste site near Catalina Island ‘staggering’, says chief scientist on sea survey
In this 2011 image provided by the University of California Santa Barbara, a barrel sits on the seafloor near the coast of Catalina Island.
Photograph: David Valentine/AP
Marine scientists say they have found what they believe to be as many as 25,000 barrels possibly containing DDT dumped off the southern California coast near Catalina Island, where a massive underwater toxic waste site dating back to the second world war has long been suspected.

The 27,345 “barrel-like’” images were captured by researchers at the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
They mapped more than 36,000 acres of seafloor between Santa Catalina Island and the Los Angeles coast in a region previously found to contain high levels of the toxic chemical in sediments and in the ecosystem.

Historical shipping logs show that industrial companies in southern California used the basin as a dumping ground until 1972, when the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, also known as the Ocean Dumping Act, was enacted.

Resting deep in the ocean, the exact location and extent of the dumping was not known until now.

The territory covered was “staggering”, said Eric Terrill, chief scientist of the expedition and director of the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Underwater drones using sonar technology captured high-resolution images of barrels resting 900 metres (3,000ft) below the surface all along the steep seafloor that was surveyed.
They also were seen beyond the dumpsite limits.

“It really was a surprise to everybody who’s worked with the data and who sailed at sea,” he told reporters on Monday.

The survey provides “a wide-area map” of the barrels, though it would be up to others to confirm through sediment sampling that the containers held DDT, Terrill said.
It is estimated between 320 and 640 tonnes of DDT were dumped in the area, 12 miles from Los Angeles, and 8 miles from Catalina Island.

The long-term impact on marine life and humans was still unknown, said Scripps chemical oceanographer and professor of geosciences Lihini Aluwihare, who in 2015 co-authored a study that found high amounts of DDT and other man-made chemicals in the blubber of bottlenose dolphins that died of natural causes.

“These results also raise questions about the continued exposure and potential impacts on marine mammal health, especially in light of how DDT has been shown to have multi-generational impacts in humans,” said Aluwihare, who was not part of the survey expedition.

Diana Aga, a chemistry professor at University at Buffalo who is not affiliated with the study, said the findings were shocking if the barrels were proven to contain the toxic chemical. 
“That’s a lot of DDT at the bottom of the ocean,” she said.

If the barrels had not leaked, they could be moved to a place where disposal was safer, Aga said.
If they leaked, scientists could take samples from the water, sediment and other marine life to gauge the damage.
Researchers on the research vessel Sally Ride deploy an autonomous underwater vehicle near Santa Catalina Island. Photograph: AP
Scientists conducted the survey from 10-24 March following a Los Angeles Times report last year about evidence that DDT was dumped into the ocean.
Terrill said: “Unfortunately, the basin offshore Los Angeles had been a dumping ground for industrial waste for several decades, beginning in the 1930s. We found an extensive debris field in the wide area survey.”

Scientists started the search where University of California Santa Barbara professor David Valentine had discovered concentrated accumulations of DDT in the sediments and spotted 60 barrels about a decade ago.

High levels of DDT have been detected in the area’s marine mammals, and the chemical has been linked to cancer in sea lions.

Scripps researchers say they hope their survey will support clean-up efforts.
The expedition on the Sally Ride research vessel included a team of 31 scientists, engineers, and crew conducting 24-hour operations and two autonomous underwater vehicles.

Links :

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Image of the week : Isles of Scilly LIDAR picture

courtesy of @HughGraham (LIDAR DEM 1m)
visualization with the GeoGarage platform and Google Maps imagery (SHOM nautical raster chart)

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Ocean currents, visualized by hundreds of GPS-tracked buoys


 Animated map shows the movements of hundreds of GPS-tracked buoys.
This gives us an idea of how ocean currents work.
Source: The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Global Drifter Program Global Drifter Program. 
Only buoys released within 5° latitude and longitude of a coast were included in the visual.


Friday, April 30, 2021

The Arctic silk road: Belt and road in North dimension. Fight for the North

From ModernDiplomacy by Maria Smotrytska
Today the Arctic is one of the world’s key regions both economically and in terms of military security.
The melting of glaciers opens up not only previously inaccessible territories, but also prospects for global economic and geopolitical rivalry in the Northern hemisphere with the main players of North Europe (Norway, Finland, Denmark), Russia, the United States, and China.
Article emphasized that the development of the Arctic opens up new trade routes, new zones of influence and billions of dollars in profits.
It is the warming of the planet that is largely responsible for this change in thinking, and with polar ice diminishing at a record rate, greater arctic activity could be upon us very soon.
But as there are multiple national claims on polar territory, there are also numerous legal issues to be worked out.
The author underlines that the favorable geographical significance and resource potential of the region make the Arctic one of the key maritime links of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, as well as titbit for Russia’s ambitious on building Arctic infrastructure and important part of world’s North transshipment waterways.

The Arctic represents much more than a new transportation frontier, however; it is also rich with hydrocarbons and a variety of mineable ores.
It is therefore no surprise that at least five northern nations are laying claim to the area.
The author examines the economic issues that motivate much of this new interest in the most remote northern region on earth.
Main opportunities and challenges in inter-states cooperation in the region are analyzed.

Arctic Territorial Claims
Today the Arctic is a theatre of four major areas with contradicting and overlapping claims.
Each of the disputed areas is holding large resource deposits (be it marine biota, hydrocarbons, other minerals and precious metals, on land or offshore seabed) and has also extensive geopolitical meaning to the parties (including control of possible transport routes).
Generally, the Arctic Five (Russia, USA, Canada, Sweden, Norway) have preliminarily agreed on the demarcation lines, by establishing more than half of potential EEZ.
However, the remaining area, including the geographic North Pole, is still under dispute and no agreement has been reached so far.
Besides the considerable territorial gain, having the Pole within its national borders holds an intangible value for its prestige.

Analysing Chinese position towards “Arctic issue”, it is important to remember, that China currently does not have access to the Arctic ocean.
Thus, with no physical access to the Arctic, Chinese strategists have long been concerned about the country’s chances of becoming an Arctic power.
Despite this, in June 2017, the state Committee for development and reform and the State Oceanographic administration of China named the Arctic as one of the directions of the “One belt, One road” project.
The “Concept of cooperation at sea within the framework of the BRI” refers to the need to involve Chinese companies in the commercial use of Arctic transport routes.

Soon after Russia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese Oceanographic authority, aimed at expanding international cooperation in the field of Arctic and Antarctic researches.
The same documents were signed with China by Norway, the United States, Germany, Chile and Argentina.

There are three potential routes across the Arctic: the Northeast passage around Eurasia, the Northwest passage around North America and the Central Arctic ocean route.
For China, they offer a shorter and cheaper alternative to current shipping routes, which reach major markets in Europe via the Indian ocean and the Suez canal.

In practice, Yong Sheng, owned by COSCO Shipping, was the firstChinese cargo ship to master the Northern sea route (Northeast passage) in 2013.
After a trial voyage, the Chinese carrier COSCO showed interest in further using this project.
However, analysts expressed doubts about its profitability.
The main problems were that when traveling along the Northern sea route, ships of lower cargo capacity have to be used, the route is seasonal, and the travel conditions are extreme.

In the summer of 2017, another six Chinese vessels took this route.
In September, the Chinese research vessel Xue Long made its first Northwest passage voyage along the Northern coast of Canada, reducing the travel time from New – York to Shanghai by seven days compared to the route through the Panama canal.

It should be borne in mind that China’s position is quite convenient in geopolitical terms : it is one of the observer States of the Arctic Council.
In total, there are eight countries in the region (Canada, the United States, Denmark, which has access to the Arctic via Greenland, Norway, Russia, Iceland, Sweden and Finland) and 13 other countries that do not have access to the Arctic, but whose using the function of monitoring the relations of the countries in the region.
Thus, China is actively using its status with the development of the Arctic programme.

It should be empathized that Beijing’s position on the development of the Arctic route supports the view that both routes contain potentially very profitable transit points that can shorten the path between Asia and Europe, not to mention between Asia and parts of North America.

In January 2018, the state Council of China published the first “White paper on China’s Arctic policy”, which states that Beijing is interested party in Arctic Affairs.
It wasnoted that China intends to create,jointly with other States, the sea trade routes in the Arctic region within the framework of the “Polar Silk Road initiative”.
Thus, it was decided that the Polar Silk Road will be part of the broader Chinese “Belt and Road” program, creating sea trade routes and strengthening trade relations with different countries in the region.

Due to the fact that other Trans – Eurasian sea transportations may be extremely unstable in the long term, especially in terms of security, the Chinese authorities have shown interest in the Northern, alternative sea route.

Analyzing the logistics of the existing route through the Suez canal and the Mediterranean sea, even taking into account the planned expansion, it is easy to see that it is already overloaded.
Secondly, the middle East is still a zone of instability and its infrastructure requires large financial investments.

Another potential route, through Central America – the Panama or Nicaraguan canal – is also not entirely rational in terms of reconstruction and big amount of investments.
It makes sense to use it for Asian – American trade, which is also planned to be improved in terms of logistics and infrastructure.

Based on this, it can be noted that the two remaining Polar routes have begun to arouse real strategic and long-term interest on the Chinese side.

The first of these routes is the American Northwest corridor (Northwest passage), first passed by water by Roald Amundsenat the beginning of the last century, but it also retains certain problems.
First of all – with Canada, which believes that the Northwest Passage passes through its territorial (internal) waters.
The second problem is the US position: the country’s authorities do not want to have a trade highway under the control of such strategic competitor as China.

The second alternative is the Northern sea route, which runs North of the Russian Federation.
Due to China’s increasing interest in developing the logistics of the Northern route, the Russian government has set a high bar for a large-scale Arctic project running along the coast of the new sea route, which is becoming more accessible to navigation as a result of climate warming and ice melting.
The head of state outlined a large-scale task: to reach the level of 80 million tons per year by 2025.

In addition to the development of the construction of a new port in Russia’s Arkhangelsk (the capital of the region on the White sea is one of cities in the Far North), construction of a new port and a railway line has begun, which should connect with one of the branches of the Chinese BRI.

Thus, it can be noted that today the Arctic opens up new prospects for trade between Europe and Asia.
The North, which has huge reserves of hydrocarbons, is of interest not only to Western countries, but also to China.
The use of sea routes and natural resources in the Arctic can have a huge impact on the energy strategy and economic development of China, which is one of the world’s leaders in foreign trade and is the largest consumer of energy in the world.
For example, the Northern sea route will allow China to deliver cargo to Europe by sea faster than the 48 days (that it takes on average) to travel from the Northern ports of China to Rotterdam via the Suez canal.
Last year, the Russian Arctic gas tanker “Christophe de Margerie” reached South Koreafrom Norway without an icebreaker escort, and the journey took only 15 days.

Thus, the Northern sea route will allow China to deliver cargo to Europe faster by sea, reduce the route by 20 – 30%, and save on fuel and human resources.
Given that 90% of Chinese goods are delivered by sea, the development of the Arctic silk road promises Beijing serious savings and profit growth .

In addition to gaining possible economic advantages, China hopes to increase its energy securitythrough Arctic trade routes.
Currently, most of the fuel imported by the Asian giant crosses the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Indian ocean with the South China sea.

Thus, it can be traced that China is interested in Arctics Arctic natural resources.
This region contains a fifth of the Earth’s natural resources.
However, even if this is the case, China’s interest in Arctic underground storerooms is rather long-term and the calculation is made for the remote future.
The problem is that China is still dependent on foreign technologies for offshore drilling, even in the warm seas surrounding it.
Technologies for extracting natural resources in Arctic waters are much more complex, and China does not have enough sufficient experience in this area.

Also, analysing the logistics of BRI routes, it can be seen why China is getting more interested in developing alternative North corridors :

The transport routes of the “Silk Road Economic Belt” project cross the Eurasian continent in the middle, the route of the “Maritime Silk Road of the XXI century” project runs along the South and there is no Northern water route yet.
The main value of the Arctic sea route is that the regions through which it passes are relatively calm and stable.
It should be noted that the “Economic Belt” crosses many countries with high conflict and crisis potential (Central Asia, Middle East, East Europe).
The “Maritime Silk Road of the XXI century” runs through the South China sea, South – East Asia, and the Indian ocean – the region which has similar problems.
Also in terms of infrastructure development these roads may cause certain risks, connected with big number of participants, different level of infrastructure capacities of countries and different legislative obstacles.
Thus, the Northern route may act as a more stable alternative that it can become a serious incentive that will contribute to the Eurasian economic integration.

The economic component of Arctic direction of the BRI is no less important.
The Chinese expert reminded that the routes through The Northwest passage and the Northern sea route would save Chinese companies time and money on their way to Western countries.
Taking into account the melting of ice in the Arctic ocean, the Northern sea route can become an alternative to the main transcontinental route that runs through the southern seas of Eurasia and further to Africa via Suez canal.
Thus, the passage of a cargo ship from Shanghai to Hamburg along the North sea route is 2.8 thousand miles shorter than the route through Suez canal.

Studying in details Arctic direction of the BRI, the main projects can be considered :
China–Russia Yamal LNG

This project is considered the world’s largest liquefied natural gas (Hereinafter LNG – Auth.) initiative, this is China and Russia’s first joint Arctic Silk Road venture.
Partners in the project include Russia’s Novatek, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), French firm Total, and China’s Silk Road Fund.
Together, CNPC and the Silk Road Fund hold a 30% stake.

Chinese shipping firms handle LNG cargos bound for China.
In July 2018, seven months after operations started, the first shipment of LNG from Yamal arrived in Jiangsu province’s Nantong.
A second phase of the project is now being constructed on the Gydan peninsula, to the east of Yamal, and due to begin operating in 2023.Current status: Production commenced December 2017.
Payakha oilfield

In June 2019, the China National Chemical Engineering Group and Russian firm Neftegaz holding signed a deal on developing the Payakha oilfield, promising investment of US$5 billion over four years.

This is Russia and China’s second Arctic Silk Road energy project after Yamal.
Payakha lies on the Taymyr peninsula in the region of Krasnoyarsk.
According to reports, the project includes the construction of six crude oil processing facilities, a crude oil port capable of handling 50 million tonnes a year, 410 kilometres of pressurized oil pipelines, a 750-megawatt power station and an oil storage facility.
Current status : Deal signed.
Zarubino port

Located just southwest of Vladivostok and close to the Chinese border, the port of Zarubino is ice free year-round.
In 2014, the government of Jilin province, the China Merchants Group and Russia’s largest port operator signed a framework deal to develop Zarubino into the biggest port in northeast Asia over 18 years, with capacity to handle 60 million tonnes of goods a year.
Railways linking the port with inland regions of China will also be built.

In September 2018, as the first stage of this project, a shipping route started running from Hunchun on the Tumen river in Jilin to Zarubino and then on to Zhoushan in Zhejiang province.
The new Zarubino port will strengthen links between northeast China and the rest of the world, and aid development in Russia’s far east.
It will also be a key link on the northeast passage trade route to Europe.
Current status: Deal signed, progressing.
Arkhangelsk deepwater port

Arkhangelsk is the largest city on Russia’s northern coast, situated on the country’s European side close to Finland.
The new deepwater port has been planned for over a decade.
It will be located 55 kilometres from Arkhangelsk on the island of Mud’yug, which lies in the Dvina river delta close to existing port infrastructure.
Linking up with Russia’s railway network, the port will help develop a combined sea–land transportation system, and improve links to Siberia.

The local government predicts the new port and associated railways will create 40,000 jobs in the region.
According to one expert, the China Poly Group signed an agreement of intent in 2016, earmarking investment of 550 million yuan (US$79 million).
The China Ocean Shipping Company has also made its interest in the project clear.
Current status: Planning.
China–Finland Arctic Monitoring and Research Centre

In April 2018, China’s Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth signed an agreement with Finland’s Arctic Space Centre to establish a new monitoring and research centre for the polar region.
The facility, based in northern Finland’s Sodankylä, will collect, process and share satellite data, providing an open international platform to support climate research, environmental monitoring and Arctic navigation.

The centre will contribute to China’s “Digital Silk Road” plan, which aims to create a spatial information system for regions covered by the BRI.
It will also promote the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ “Global Three Poles Environment” project, which aims to better understand global climate change.
The project was inaugurated in October 2018.
Current status: Deal signed.
China–Iceland Arctic Science Observatory

In October 2018, the China–Iceland Arctic Science Observatory was officially opened in the city of Karholl in northern Iceland.

Set up to monitor climate and environmental change in the Arctic, the observatory is managed by the Polar Research Institute of China and Iceland’s Institute of Research Centres.
It can accommodate 15 people and will also be open to researchers from third countries.

The partnership started in 2012 when the two governments signed a deal on Arctic cooperation.
That year also saw a memorandum of understanding signed between organisations from the two countries on a joint aurora observatory.
Plans were expanded in 2017, with work at the observatory now covering the atmosphere, the oceans, glaciers, geophysics, remote sensing and biology.
Current status: Operating since late 2018.

Thus the modern logistics projects such as “Arctic Silk road” and“Maritime Silk Road of the XXI century” connect China with other countries of South – East Asia, the Middle East, East Africa and some EU countries through sea trade routes, such as such in the Red sea.
Thus, it can seen that three new transport corridors will connect Europe with the Russian Federation, Central Asia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Thailand.
Analysing“Maritime Silk Road” logistics it becomes clear that the project is designed to connect three continents into a single transport system: Europe, Asia and Africa.
It is no secret that many of these countries have a lot of political differences, but the benefits that the implementation of this large-scale project promises can make them forget about old claims to each other.

One of the long-term prospects for the development of the BRI project is the creation of free trade zones with countries participating in the initiative.
The result of such multi-countries collaboration may be the emergence of a large-scale free trade zone from the North – Western provinces of China, Central Asia, to Europe and Africa.
About three billion people live on the project’s path.
In this case, we are talking about the “mega – market”, and, of course, about the“mega – potential”.

Analysing the development of new Chinese silk road in the north, we should understand, it is worth recalling that the Arctic is one of the few places on the planet that has yet to be “fully registered with residence”.
After all, initially the resources of the Arctic were not clearly divided between countries.
At least five countries now claim the Arctic zones: Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the United States.
All of them have direct access to the coast of the Arctic ocean.
We also need to mention at least two another “Arctic powers”, which don’t have a physic access to Arctic land, but have a lot of influence in the worlds politics : China and India.
National claims may be supported by various arguments in the future, but it is clear that the main one are practical, that is, the country’s real readiness to actively develop the North.

Thus, it can be seen that contradictions between interested countries in the Arctic may well lead to an increase in international tension in general and the likelihood of local international conflicts in particular.
After all, this region is worth to fight for and conflict situations can really arise.

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